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How To Write Engaging Headlines That People Want To Click
There are a number of reasons why popular websites like PopSugar, BuzzFeed, or HuffPost get so many visitors, clicks, and views. However, the main reason is perhaps the fact that all these sites use powerful, unique, and engaging headlines that make users want to click on the content and read the whole story.
While there’s no really one sure-fire guideline to write an engaging headline, there are certain kinds of headlines that have proven themselves to be successful time and again. And by following their criteria, you will find yourself writing headlines that compel people to click on your content and read the story.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to consistently write powerful, engaging headlines that persuade people to click, no matter the content type.
Why Engaging Headlines Matter
When it comes to any form of written content, the headline is the first thing that people see. It will either capture the attention of the reader or bore them. That’s the sole purpose of getting it right. Keep in mind that your prospective customers will make their first impression about your content and brand from them.
Of course, headlines are not for blog posts alone. You will likely have to write headlines to invite people to sign up for your email newsletter, social media posts, introductions to your pillar pages, and more. Having the best headlines will compel your consumers to keep reading.
Ideally, your headlines shouldn’t focus on selling to the reader. Instead, they should focus on enticing them to click and draw them to read through the entire piece. They should also be an accurate representation of your article and the values of your company. Don’t forget that most people believe the headlines they see, and headlines that seem too click-baity or fake headlines can actually give your business a bad rep.
Vague, boring, confusing, and dull headlines communicate to your audience that the rest of the content will be lifeless. You want them to assume you got the goods so that you only need to deliver on your headline’s promise. If you do this often enough, you will gradually build a loyal audience, and hopefully loyal customers.
As such, to boost the chances of people actually clicking on your headlines and reading through your post, your headlines should be as captivating and intriguing as possible. However, as you can tell, writing great headlines isn’t exactly easy. You might have to come up with 10 or more different versions before choosing the one that really works.
To help you understand how to write engaging headlines that compel people to click, below are some powerful, proven strategies that you can reproduce for your content.
1. Use Simple, Powerful Language
The kind of language you use will affect the click worthiness of your headline. As mentioned earlier, words that are bland, boring, and uninspiring are only going to turn off your potential readers. It’s better to stick with a language that simple, yet powerful. For instance, you can try to address the reader directly with the word “You” or incorporate a call-to-action with words like “Click” or “Try”. Alternatively, you can transform a generic headline using a power word such as “Never”.
A simple language will go a long way in getting more eyes on your post. So, don’t go for words like “utilize” in a case where the word “use” will suffice.
Some great examples of this include:
- How To Fix Your Eating Problems With Science
- How to Treat Blackheads And Other Annoying Skin Conditions From Home
- Top 10 Places To Find Inspiration For Your Blog Posts
2. Call for Attention
The main purpose of a headline is getting the reader to read your first sentence. So, every headline should ideally call for attention. This simply means capturing the mental focus and concentration to your article.
As a small business owner, engaging your audience with great content is one of the most effective ways of acquiring and retaining customers. Any great content starts with a headline that makes the reader want to read. So, you need to persuade your prospects and customers to keep reading, and your headline will build that momentum for you.
So, rather than focus your time and energy into making sales and getting new email subscribers, focus on using headlines that make them want to read the first sentence. If you can successfully accomplish this goal, the storytelling will take care of the rest and most likely convert the reader into a lead.
Below are 4 core principles of attention-grabbing headlines:
Think of the headlines that you usually click while scrolling through your timeline or newsfeed. Chances are, they are the kind of headlines that offer something that you relate to or can help you. With this in mind, you need to give people a similar kind of useful value in your own headlines. In fact, all these “core principles” listed here correlate with usefulness.
No matter how much of the other principles you employ, if your headline and the content itself aren’t useful, you’ll probably fail. Useful can refer to a lot of things; valuable, helpful, beneficial, informative, practical, etc. The key here is to help your audience experience hope, with the awareness that their problem can still be solved.
So, start by outlining what will be most useful to your audience, and then offer them what they need. This means that your headline should identify a problem they are probably dealing with and offer a solution, and so should the article itself. This will work whether you are offering products or services, as these should be solving the reader’s problems in the first place.
One clever way of pushing people to click is creating a sense of urgency in your headline. Make good use of your audience’s fear of mission out (FOMO). Keep in mind that for almost everyone, there are so many things trying to grab our attention online, and it’s generally easy to ignore anything that doesn’t seem to be time-sensitive.
But whenever we think that something is urgent, we want to click on it and get the information right away. No one wants to miss out on something that’s helpful, exciting, entertaining, or features information we need right away.
Copywriters usually improve their conversion rates significantly when they apply a sense of urgency in their copy. Their prospects tend to respond much more quickly because their psychology is wired to convince them to make a purchase based on emotions, and not to justify their decision with logic. Urgency tends to go well with scarcity. In fact, the two are powerful copy elements that can produce outstanding results.
Here are great examples of urgency-focused headlines:
- My Personal Long-Kept Secret for Getting Books Published Faster
- You’ll Be Sorry If You Miss This Chance To Try Out Our New Book Writing Course
- 7 Steps I Took To Write My First Book (And How You Can Do It In 5)
However, urgency is quite difficult to capture, since it might not always apply to the subject you’re tackling in the article. So, if it doesn’t feel right or if it feels a little bit forced, don’t hesitate from leaving urgency out of your headline.
People love to see unusual and rare phrases. They stick out nicely and piques their interest so much that they just have to click. So, anything you can use to make your headline stand out in the already saturated online world will help. A great approach is to use puns, wordplay, and interesting topics.
But how can you tell if a headline is unique? The simplest way is to enter it into Google search and enclosing it in double quotation marks to see if there are any exact matches. The goal here is to have a headline that no one else has. This will compel your readers to not only read the entire piece but also share it with others.
Ever wondered why so many sites use numbers in a lot of their headlines? Well, that’s because it makes them ultra-specific. Readers want to know exactly what they can expect from the post when they click on its headline. The more precise you can be, the more the authority you will command and the easier it will be for you to build lasting connections with your customers.
The best headlines ideally take specific ideas and break them down a few steps further. For instance, if you’re discussing home improvement ideas, don’t just mention home improvement ideas, include some do-it-yourself home decor ideas. If it’s about foods to avoid for weight loss, talk about the common foods users can avoid.
Having specific and realistic objectives certainly helps. Avoid vagueness at all costs, and don’t confuse your readers with your headlines. Get straight to the point. If your piece is about six easy steps to achieve something, go ahead and make it clear in the headline.
Here are some examples of ultra-specific keywords for the target keyword “Write a Resume”:
- Learn How to Write a Resume for Your Dream Job from Scratch
- 4 Easy Ways To Write a Resume That Stands Out for Beginners
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Write a Resume in Less than an Hour
Notice how the last part of each headline listed above helps make the headlines ultra-specific.
When you learn to incorporate these characteristics in your headlines, you will be able to develop even better headlines for all the posts you publish. But that’s not all. You can also pass your headlines off as a guide to get your audience interested.
3. Make Bold Statements
Incorporating a shock factor in the headline almost always get you higher click-through rates. So, feel free to come up with creative ways to spice up your title, and then phrase it in a way that draws the reader’s attention instantly. One sure way to do this is to make bold, controversial, or opinionated statements.
Consider a brand like Refinery29, which is an online publication that caters mostly to women readers. They really do a great job of making bold statements in their headlines, and definitely kills their headline game time and again. One of the main reasons why they are so successful is that their headlines are typically very opinionated, and just leave the reader wanting to click to learn more.
Here are some examples of how to make bold statements in your headlines:
- How to Become a Millionaire Before Age 30
- These Outdated Beauty Hacks Aren’t Worth Your Time
- There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Supporter
4. Use Numbers in your Headlines
While this seems rather obvious, it’s still worth mentioning because it has proven to be effective time and again. People are inherently attracted to lists and numbers, since they are easy for the brain to process, and the reader knows the format is easy to digest.
Using numbers can also prey on the readers’ innate need to get something out of value quickly, such as a better physique or more money, without having to go through the most logical route. The trick here is to ensure you aren’t just selling a bill of goods. This means you need to deliver, big time. Otherwise, you risk making the reader feel cheated.
Examples of Such Headlines include:
- 17 Top Ways to Make a Kind Gesture Without Spending a Dime
- The 7 Most Outrageous Hacks To Lose Weight Without Going to the Gym
- 21 Ways to Make Money Online For The Naturally Lazy
5. Use Interesting Adjectives
Adjectives are always important in both written and spoken English. When writing your content, you can leverage the power of adjectives to not only give your headline a boost but also make it attractive to your audience. Some of the interesting adjectives you can use when creating your headline include free, fun, incredible, strange, painstaking, absolute, essential, effortless, etc.
Examples of powerful adjectives in action include:
- 13 Incredible Landscape Photography Tips For Beginners
- The Best Free Photo Editing Video Guides on YouTube
- 7 Fun Ways To Find Inspiration For Your Photography Blog
6. Ask Strange or Unexpected Questions
Unexpected questions are a perfect way to grab the attention of your viewers in a way that leaves them curious and wanting more. We are all humans and instinctively, we want to uncover the answers to such questions. Lucky for you, this can’t be done unless the viewer clicks on the headline and reads your post. If used right, this method guarantees you high click-through rates.
Examples of strategic questions in headlines are as follows:
- Still Drinking 5 Glasses of Water a Day? Here’s Why It Could be Dangerous
- Why Are You Still Driving a 10-Year-Old Car?
- Are You Unhappy in your Relationship? See What Awaits You on the Other Side
- Is It Really Safe To Eat Bloody Pink Chicken?
7. Leverage the Art of Mystery
There’s an art to the amount of information you need to give out in a headline. And while revealing your giveaway certainly works (we’ll cover that shortly), so does concealing it. When you offer insider information, your viewers won’t be able to resist. Their curiosity will compel them to read the post to find the answers.
A headline worded as “XX Little-Known Ways to ____” ideally focuses on the idea that the content in the post is little known, and the reader will have an advantage over people who don’t know about it yet. You can achieve a similar effect with a headline such as “XX Secrets of ___”. The reader will want to know more about the secrets, and therefore click on the headline.
Another approach is using headlines such as “What Everyone Needs To Know About ___.” This challenges the reader to find out more about the things they could be missing out on. For maximum exposure, be sure to use keywords in your headlines, since they also provide some context.
8. Use Emotional Words
Not all words are created equal. Some words have the power to influence change, while others just reaffirm the status quo. Some words can evoke happy emotions, while others can make people cry. Emotionally powerful words are commonly referred to as power words. Examples include: Amazing, breathtaking, staggering, sensational, blissful, heart, daring, spectacular, conquer, and fearless.
Here are three examples of headlines with power words:
- How to Write from the Heart and Connect with the Reader
- Case Study: How I Conquered Writer’s Block To Write a New York Times Bestseller
- This Trick Will Make You More Popular, Powerful, and Persuasive
9. Make Comparisons
Some of the best headlines feature a comparison. Many customers like the idea of making purchase decisions by comparing one product against a rival. The key here is to make sure you’re comparing one thing that really matters to your audience against its main competition, and suggesting pointers or benefits that they will really care about.
Here are a few examples that use comparisons effectively:
- Cats vs dogs: Which is the best pet to have?
- iPhone XS vs Huawei P30 Pro: Which is Faster?
How to Write Effective Headlines
You’ve already come across some of the best headlines around the web, but how do you go about emulating them and creating your own creative ones? How can you make your headlines more clickable?
The first thing to remember is that great headlines inspire curiosity. The reader feels compelled to click because they want to know what’s on the other side of the headline. So, you better deliver. You can come up with the best headline in the world, but if the content behind it sucks, you will be in big trouble with your audience. They won’t trust you anymore, and you will lose revenue in the process.
Before publishing the content piece, it’s important to verify that the content answers or marries the headline. If not, go ahead and rewrite the headline. A great approach here is to start with the result you’re promising. If for instance you promised them better health, a cozier home, or more web traffic, tie the result to a surprising fact from the copy or story. Combining these two concepts ignites curiosity.
A Checklist for Engaging Headlines
To ensure that you’re writing the best headlines possible, here is a handy checklist:
- Start with a promise. Decide what you want your reader to take away from the content.
- Add interesting adjectives and emotional words. They make your headlines stand out.
- Make a comparison or ask a question. Leave the answer open-ended to drive up their curiosity.
- Hit a pain-point. Knowing your audience is key here.
- State a controversial opinion. The viewer knows what you think, but will be curious to learn more about your thought process behind it.
- Play with words and language. This can sometimes clarify a headline instead of leaving it too vague.
Test Out Different Kinds of Headlines
As you can tell already, there are quite a number of approaches you can take when writing your headlines. You can ask a question, make a comparison, or even explain a controversial topic. In a similar way, the formatting of your headlines can change.
You can have a question, statement, or a combination of the two. There are no hard rules here. The goal is to pique the interest of your audience and get them to click. That’s why it’s important to test out as many different approaches as possible and drill down the ones that work best for your audience.
Do a complete brain dump of all the ideas you can think of for your headline, and then come up with ways of mix and matching them together. Consider sharing your top three to five best ideas with your team and ask them to vote. In no time, you will have an absolute consensus.
Writing great headlines isn’t rocket science. It only requires an understanding of what people like and what they like to share. No one wants to be tricked into reading something bland or boring, they want to be naturally drawn into an exciting piece. And now that you know how to make great headlines, don’t forget to make it worth their while.
Make sure that your headline not only grabs their attention, but also present your content in an attractive, yet honest way. They won’t regret clicking on it, and neither will you.
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